Yesterday morning I had my first proper chat at the nursery gates with another mum. We both arrived and left at the same time and got quite involved comparing the walking prowess of our offspring. I have a feeling, though I’m not sure, that this is the mum of the child I encountered in the park with her dad the other week. He knew us, I didn’t know him.
It’s odd though, how easily people get chatting to each other when they have children. I’m very British and rarely talk to strangers just off the cuff. I say hello and thank you to the bus driver, will chat to supermarket checkout assistants if they talk first and various other service types – gas men, librarians, and so on. But I don’t say very much otherwise unless I know someone.
Having E has changed that – she’s a catalyst for a conversation. People like to comment on her, especially if I’m having to walk about with her or we’re doing something. Last Christmas we got a card from our next door neighbours for the first time in 11 years – all because we had a long chat one afternoon just after E was born and the neighbour came out to have a goo over the new baby.
We ran into some friends a few weeks ago. S & I used to work with the man and we’ve met his wife a few times at work dos. They’re both lovely people and I’ve got on well with them when we’ve met in the past but I have no contact details at all for them. I hadn’t seen them for a good couple of years when I saw them the other day and they’ve a difficult time recently but we had a good chat, ice immediately broken by the children. We talked like we hadn’t had a few years between contact and then we got in our respective cars and drove our separate ways. Is it just me that does that? Or are other people as socially inept? I shall have to wait now until I bump into them again and then see if I can muster enough brio to get a mobile number or something. It could be AGES.
S is, if anything, more anti-social than I am, content not to go anywhere or talk to anyone. This is the main reason he never takes E to any parent-baby groups on their days together. He doesn’t mind going to the library but won’t take her to the singing group, just to look at books.
I don’t remember a time when I didn’t prefer the company of a book to that of other people. E is already very fond of books but she’s also naturally curious about other people, especially other children. I don’t think I need to worry about her yet. It was in my teens when I became really anti-social, sticking to a small circle of friends, and not knowing how to go out and meet new people. So she has a few years before I need to really worry about her. I have the feeling it’s linked to self-esteem though. And there is where we run into some problems – it’s a good buzz word isn’t it, we use it at work a lot. But I haven’t the first idea how to pass self-esteem onto your children. I don’t think it’s necessarily something past generations worried about.
It’s a juggling act I think, praising but not spoiling them, being realistic but wanting to stretch and challenge them, encouraging them to be friendly but not reckless, and doing all of that while just trying to make it through the day. With all this on my mind, it’s no wonder I forget to take note of other people’s mobile numbers.